Legal Issues

The law has not kept up with technology but the courts and congress are trying. Some of these cases are criminal cases but we believe that they have an impact on all civil and criminal cases involving technology and the monitoring of an individual. Review the cases below to gain a deeper understanding of how technology and law are working together and changing.

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Cell Phone Privacy Rights

The Supreme Court decided that the evidence seized from the cell phone of a gang member was not to be used in Court as it was a part of an unreasonable search. Digital data (which may contain evidence) has the ability to be preserved while waiting for a warrant by using a "Faraday Bag." Thus, the evidence collected without a warrant from the cell phone, in this particular case, was protected under the Fourth Amendment of unreasonable search and seizure.  

Cell Phones (texting) and Privacy

The Supreme Court rejected a broad right of privacy for workers who send text messages on the job, ruling that supervisors may read through an employee's communications if they suspect rules are being violated. In a 9-0 ruling, the justices said a police chief in Ontario, Calif., did not violate the constitutional rights of an officer when he read the transcripts of sexually explicit text messages sent from the officer's work pager.

Decryption of a Seized Data Storage System - Case 1

US District Court case in the matter of the decryption of a seized data storage system. Jeffrey Feldman was asked to “assist in the execution of a federal search warrant by providing federal law enforcement agents a decrypted version of the contents of his encrypted data storage system, previously seized and authorized for search under a federal search warrant.” The primary issue presented by the government’s application is whether compliance with such an order would involve incriminating testimony within the protection of the Fifth Amendment.

Decryption of a Seized Data Storage System - Case 2

After the denial of their original request, the FBI was able to successfully decrypt one of the hard drives; in it they found over 700,000 files.  The files not only linked the hard drive to child pornography, but also to the defendant. The court now decided, based on this new evidence, that the government had reasonable cause to believe that Feldman was storing other illegal material and ordered him to help in decrypting the rest of the storage devices. This would not be violating the 5th Amendment, according to the court, because the new evidence precluded the defendant from pleading the 5th Amendment.

E-mail and privacy at work

In the past twenty years, businesses and private citizens alike have embraced the use of computers, electronic communication devices, the Internet, and e-mail. As those and other forms of technology evolve, the line separating business from personal activities can easily blur. Stengart v. Loving Care Agency Inc LCA details some of the legal implications that have arisen due to this blurring line.

Employer liable for workplace web porn

Plaintiff Jane Doe, on behalf of her minor daughter Jill Doe, appeals from a summary judgment dismissing her complaint against defendant XYC Corporation which sought to hold defendant responsible for the activities of one of its employees (Employee) who was Jane's husband and the stepfather of Jill. We reverse. We hold that an employer who is on notice that one of its employees is using a workplace computer to access pornography, possibly child pornography, has a duty to investigate the employee's activities and to take prompt and effective action to stop the unauthorized activity, lest it result in harm to innocent third-parties. No privacy interest of the employee stands in the way of this duty on the part of the employer

Employer Collection of Employee Health Data

Penn State administrators quietly introduced the plan, called “Take Care of Your Health,” this summer in the deadest part of the academic calendar. But that didn’t prevent some conscientious objectors from organizing a protest online and on their campuses, culminating last week in an emotionally charged faculty senate meeting. The plan, they argued, is coercive, punitive and invades university employees’ privacy.

Facebook Password Case

"Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life." But what if the people in your life want to use your Facebook  posts against you in a civil lawsuit? Whether and to what extent  online social networking information is discoverable in a civil case is the issue currently before the Court.

GPS and Privacy

The Supreme Court’s decision in United States v Jones presents the disturbing possibility that we have given the government wide-open access to all of the information about us is true.  In Jones, the court held that long-term GPS surveillance of a suspect’s car violated the Fourth Amendment.  This article discusses the implications of this decision.

Private Password Disclosure

Illinois recently enacted a law on January 1, 2015 indicating that a post-secondary school may have the right to obtain private passwords to students' social networking accounts if there is reasonable cause to believe that the account contains evidence that the student violated a school disciplinary rule or policy. In order for the law to be rightfully enacted by the post-secondary school with reasonable cause, the institution must provide notification to the student and his or her parent or guardian that the school is requesting or requiring the disclosure of a password.

Student Cell Phone Search

A student was brought into the principal's office at Hermitage High School after reports of a "long-haired student" smoking marijuana on a Hermitage bus. The student, who had long hair at the time, was patted down and searched. His cell phone was also searched, without a warrant. The judge in the case ruled that a warrantless cell phone search, in this case, violated the Fourth Amendment, as to the search the cell phone required a warrant.

Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking 

A federal court ruling says that warrantless cell phone tracking by police is legal.  The panel of judges found that law enforcement were within their legal right to track Skinner, an alleged drug trafficker, through his cell phone before they arrested him in 2006. Law enforcement used the GPS feature on Skinner’s phone to track his whereabouts and arrest him. The judges believe the police were simply leveraging the power of the technology the person of interest was using against that person.